This week’s mystery entry was The Last Letter, Season 5, Episode 7 of Death Valley Days from 1956, with William Pullen, Clint Eastwood, Forrest Stanley, George Pembroke, Russ Todd, John Sargent, Gregg Barton and Robert Sherman.
Directed by Stuart E. McGowan. Executive Producer Dorrell McGowan. Production Supervisor Dorothy B. McCann.
Screenplay by Ruth C. Woodman.
Photographed by Brydon Baker. Supervising editor Arthur H. Nadel.
Music editor Eve Newman. Assistant director Clark Paylow. Sound effects editor Verna Fields. Set decorator George Sawley.
Production designer Alfeo Bocchicchio. Wardrobe by Bob Richards and Muriel Poole.
Death Valley Days is available on streaming on many platforms.
Note: Perry Mason buffs, prepare for next week and very niche mystery photos. Non-TV fans can sit this one out.
With Cry Macho just released, I thought it would be fun (OK, for me) to look at Clint Eastwood’s early career on TV. His appearance as a biker on the campy Highway Patrol (1956) may be a bit better known, so I opted for another show from the same year. His terrible fake mustache is a bonus.
Eastwood’s appearance on Death Valley Days was barely mentioned at the time (he had second billing). Nobody reviewed the show and he was only mentioned in a few of the TV listings. His performance is not especially remarkable in a small role as a bitter, rather frustrated, isolated young gold miner, a quiet loner with simmering anger. Lead actor William Pullen, as a man starting a mail route to miners in the gold fields, is a far more established performer and did a fair amount of television in the 1950s.
As was common in the 1950s, the show used a few silent film stars. There’s Keystone Kops and Lonesome Luke star Snub Pollard, who seems to have spent several decades in non-speaking roles as barflies and courtroom spectators after being Tex Ritter’s comic sidekick Pee Wee. Forrest Stanley, who plays a postmaster in The Last Letter, was a leading man in the silents of the 1920s.
Rounding out the cast are some forgotten faces of the 1950s: Russ Todd, who appears in half a dozen Death Valley Days and nothing else. Robert Sherman has eight credits on IMDB. And a few folks I wasn’t able to identify.
For Monday, we have a mystery woman. Her somewhat less mysterious companion has been cropped out and will appear later in the week.
Update: This is William Pullen. Further update: Tucson Barbara suggests our mystery woman is Daria Massey, who did several Death Valley Days episodes and looks like a match. Nice work!
Update: For “Aha Thursday,” we add our mystery woman’s somewhat less mysterious companion.
For Tuesday, we have some mysterious gents. This is mystery gent No. 1.
Update: As yet, our mystery stable operator remains unidentified. He gets a fair amount of solo screen time and a number of lines. But no screen credit.
This is mystery gent No. 2. His slightly less mysterious companion has been cropped out and will appear later.
Update: For Thursday, here he is again.
Update: This is Russ Todd and William Pullen.
This is mystery gent No. 3.
Update: This is Robert Sherman.
And these are mystery gents Nos. 4 and 5.
Update: This is Joseph Sargent and George Pembroke.
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have a mystery gent and Back of the Head Guy.
Update: This is Gregg Barton, with a terrible fake mustache, and William Pullen as Back of the Head Guy.
We also have this mystery gent on the left.
Update: This is Snub Pollard, left, and Joseph Sargent.
And finally, we have this mystery gent. With lots of mail.
Update: This is Forrest Stanley.
Also for “Aha Thursday,” we have this somewhat mysterious gent.
Update: This is the Old Ranger, Stanley Andrews.
Brain Trust roll call: Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mysterious silent movie star No. 1).
And for Friday….
Update: This is Clint Eastwood, with a terrible fake mustache.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (mystery TV show and Thursday’s mysterious TV host), Jenny M. (Thursday’s mysterious TV host), Richard Wegescheide (Thursday’s mysterious TV host), Mike Hawks (mystery TV show, mysterious episode and mysterious cast), Mary Mallory (Thursday’s mystery TV host) and Thom and Megan (mystery TV show and mysterious TV host).